HONOLULU (KHON2) — City taxpayers could be on the hook to pay more legal fees for Honolulu Police Department officers who were involved in a fatal shooting that occurred in 2019.
The circumstances in this one? They are somewhat similar to the two fatal police shootings in April.
The shooting happened on Lanikuhana Avenue in Mililani back in February 2019. The driver of the truck, Kyle Thomas, was suspected of theft when HPD officers in plainclothes approached him. Susan Ballard, who was HPD’s chief at the time, said Thomas rammed two of the officers’ vehicles, so they fired and killed him.
“The first officer who was holding on to the door of the suspect vehicle feared for the second officer’s life and fired at the suspect,” said Ballard.
But the attorney for Thomas’ family has filed a lawsuit against the officers and Ballard and said the officers fired before the truck rammed their vehicles.
“It’s our understanding that the car only moved after they fired and the driver was hit and then somehow the car moved,” said Eric Seitz.
Seitz is also representing the family of Iremamber Sykap, the teenager fatally shot by officers in April. The officers fired at the car driven by Sykap and at the time HPD said they fired because their lives were in danger. One officer has been charged with murder and two officers with attempted murder.
Seitz says the plainclothes officers in the Mililani shooting also did not identify themselves. That is an issue brought up in another lawsuit in the death of Lindani Myeni in Nuuanu.
At Wednesday’s Honolulu Police Commission meeting, City attorneys recommended allowing legal counsel for Ballard and the officers in the Mililani shooting. The commission agreed with approving Ballard’s request but held off on approving the request of the three officers.
“I’d just like to see the complaint and just make sure I know what it says and then make a decision from there,” said Doug Chin of the Honolulu Police Commission.
HPD says the three officers have returned to full duty. Seitz points out that the similarities in police lawsuits are a troubling trend that could be very costly for City taxpayers.
“My hope is that because of this rash of cases that the city’s lawyers will recognize that there’s a real problem here and will make some effort to try and settle these cases,” said Seitz.